The Employers' Association

The Employers’ Association (TEA) is a not-for-profit employers’ association, formed in 1939, with offices in Grand Rapids serving the West Michigan employer community. We help more than 600 member companies maximize employee productivity and minimize employer liability through human resources and management advice, training, survey data, and consulting services.

TEA is in the business of helping people. This blog is intended to address human issues, concerns and the things that impact people - be they self-perpetuated or externally imposed. Feel free to respond to the thoughts presented here, for without each other, we are nothing!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Reflections on Advancement and Achievement

One cannot be successful if he or she strives simply to maintain their position in life rather than striving to grow.  Employees cannot do only what has been assigned – meeting only the minimum expectations - if success and fulfillment are desired.  A relationship can survive but will rarely thrive unless someone is willing to put the other’s needs first – having faith that an equal and opposite reaction will fill their own needs to overflowing. 

Spring ushers new life into a previously frozen world but we rarely experience a renewal of hope without first enduring the potential flooding that thaws and rains may bring to our otherwise dry and predictable lives.  In order to reach the possibilities that are before us we must continually renew our own expectations by identifying and nurturing our dreams of “what could be” rather than accepting and being content within the complacency of “what is.”  We must fully accept that nothing is impossible if we are to re-imagine our lives – that no obstacle or barrier can keep us from reaching our destination – UNLESS we allow our own feelings of self-doubt (or importance) to get in our way.  We must recognize that there are four factors in life that can easily disrupt our journey – four self-defeating attitudes can keep us from reaching our full potential.  In order to thrive we must learn to identify how these factors influence our lives and look beyond the short-term satisfaction they may bring to accomplish more than we may ever have imagined possible.

It is “human” to bask in the glory of our accomplishments and accept “what is” as being “what will always be.”  It is an indicator of advancement when we recognize that all we have done is but the beginning of what we have yet to do.  Getting a job and doing all that you were told was once the primary factor in keeping a job for life.  That is no longer the simple solution within today’s world.  An engineer or HR Professional will not survive without updating his or her understanding of current systems or laws.  A production worker probably cannot be blind to automation and statistical process control techniques.  No relationship can grow without seeking new opportunities to share – new paths to explore – for without an overriding destination our journey will stall and our opportunities slip through our fingers.  Individuals who refuse to know anything other than what they have learned in the past typically fail to grow as their experiences of “what once worked” will not prepare them for an unknown future.  When one stops learning they tend to fade away and die.

One can survive by efficiently doing all they are asked or told to do but he or she will never truly thrive unless their efforts exceed expectations by producing results that are mutually beneficial to all involved.  Growth results from the expansion of one’s experience and capabilities rather than an effective utilization of their demonstrated skills and abilities.  We can efficiently express our thoughts and ideas by using an e-mail or texting someone but a conversation could more effectively resolve an issue without extensive (and time consuming) “replies and clarifications.”  Much can be learned by listening to tones, inflections and observing mannerisms during a conversation that may never have been considered when looking at “the written word.”  A recent State Farm Insurance marketing campaign demonstrates how different inflection can create a totally different meaning as the owner of a car that was vandalized says “This cannot be happening to me!” in misery and dis-belief while a daughter receiving a new car says the same statement with enthusiasm and excitement.  The same can be said of our actions.  We can appear to be busy as we do the tasks that have been assigned by stretching them out to fill the time we have OR we can act with a sense of urgency to accomplish what is needed allowing us the time to seek what else could be done.  Individuals advance in all aspects of their lives when they fully embrace the time they have been given to achieve not only those things that need to be done but to also identify and clarify those things that have yet to be accomplished while leveraging their proven abilities to realize unexpected consequences.

An individual who believes they are irreplaceable will probably never be replaced – NOR will they be given the opportunity to grow.  One cannot move forward unless (and until) someone else can do what they alone have been able to accomplish in the past.  We cannot advance to the next level in our job, relationship or anything else in life until we are willing to leave where we were comfortable by climbing towards the next plateau – by leaving behind that which makes us seem irreplaceable as we boldly move ahead to seize that which could provide us with a new sense of relevance.  If an individual bases their importance on feeling that nobody could do what he or she does, that person has unknowingly accepted a self-imposed limitation on his or her future growth (and ultimate satisfaction).  If nobody else can do what you do – as well as you feel you can do it – then you never will have the time to do anything other than what you have assumed as your singular and indispensable role.   Individuals who believe they are “critical” or “singularly essential” within their limited and specialized role do not foster growth, rather they reinforce stagnation, tend to accept mediocrity, and rarely rise beyond their current level of accomplishment. 

People who believe they know all the answers rarely even know half of the right questions.  Individuals that know how (and what) to question are much more valuable than those who feel they know all the answers.  One must always be open to new ideas, techniques, and ways of doing things in order to grow – and this openness to consider other avenues or solutions does not come from isolationist thinking or shutting out different ways of thinking about things.  One can truly contribute to the growth, health or potential of any situation ONLY after establishing that change is at least wanted (even if not yet fully welcome), identifying and discussing the positives (and limitations) of the current environment, recognizing the benefits and ramifications of doing things differently before initiating intentional actions to move the process forward.  Imposing such drastic change based on one’s personal knowledge, abilities or experiences may be efficient but learning to ask the right questions that identify concerns, objections and hesitancies (be they real or imagined) will help accomplish lasting and positive change by engaging all involved in the development of an effective solution.

Do not take success, achievement or advancement for granted.  Take the time to plan where you are going, think about how you will get there, and maintain an open mind that is free from self-imposed barriers, limitations or obstacles along the way.  Today will never become tomorrow but it does become yesterday when tomorrow comes.  Looking back instead of ahead, remaining content with the “what is” rather than seeking “what could be,” and doing what works rather than what might work better are signs of terminal stagnation – often leading to frustration due to a perceived lack of opportunity, accusations that “someone else” is preventing you from advancing and elimination of any hope that one’s individual efforts could ever result in positive change.  When we plan our advancement by reflecting on the past and the present – considering the accomplishments of those who came before us and the contributions of those currently around us – we will be able to reach our goals by defeating the attitudes that would otherwise hold us back.